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Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

Is It Okay to Talk to the Grave of Your Loved One?

When we’re hurting, we seek peace, and God is the God of peace and comfort. Peace, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

Those of you who have read me for awhile can probably guess the answer to any question I posit that begins with, “Is it okay to . . .?”

Yeah, the answer’s probably yes, unless the question is something like,

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“Is it okay to walk up to a complete stranger and tell them that they look ugly in purple?” But then, I probably wouldn’t entitle a post like that, choosing instead, something like Nasty, Biting — Unintentional — Things We Say.

But all things considered, the answer is probably yes, as it is to today’s question, “Is it okay to talk to the grave of your loved one?”

Spaghetti Sauce

This question occurred to me as I was making spaghetti last night, which isn’t as random as it sounds, really, because my spaghetti sauce is loosely based upon a recipe of my father’s (Shockingly Simple Spaghetti Sauce); my father is in a better place right now; but I miss him, so when I’m in town where the cemetery is, I drop by and visit his grave.

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Sometimes, I talk to him.

I tell him about the Norwegian Artist’s Santa paintings; Tired of Being Youngest’s forays into the culinary world; College Girl’s brave standing up in a group and facing down the bully who happened to be her boss.

Other times, we sit in companionable silence, in much the same way we did when he was alive. His grave overlooks a field of trees, a meadow of reflection on the life of a good man, and the legacy he left behind. Always, always, I end the visit with, “I love you, Dad.”

Sorcery versus Talking

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I know he’s dead. I also know that God gives us pretty firm instructions to not to practice divination and sorcery (Leviticus 20: 26), and that it was a definite no-no for Saul to seek counsel with the spirit of Samuel in 1 Samuel 28.

Sometimes, talking to the ones we’ve lost is a form of contemplation; a conversation in our head that allows us to explore our feelings. Contemplation, original oil painting by Steve Henderson, sold; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

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There is a wall of some sort separating those of us on earth from those of us who have fallen asleep, and we are expressly told to not attempt to scale that wall. (Leviticus 19:31 — “Do not turn to mediums or seek out spiritists, for you will be defiled by them. I am the Lord Your God.”)

But the emotion of relationships does not abruptly end when another person’s breath does, and it can be part of the grieving process to talk to the person we can no longer sit in the same room with. At a time when we’re hurting, the last thing we need is someone telling us that we are evil because we look up heavenwards and say something like,

“You would have enjoyed this movie. It was a good one.”

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So if you find yourself, like me, visiting a loved one’s grave and chatting, here are a few thoughts to ruminate on:

Quit Beating up on Yourself

1) Don’t flagellate yourself for talking to someone you love and miss. God’s there right beside you, and He hears what you’re saying and can pass on the message somehow.

2) While talking’s fine,  seeking wisdom from this person, or praying to them for answers, isn’t particularly wise. God tells us in Exodus 20:3, “You shall have no other gods before me,” meaning that He, and He alone, is the one we worship, seek guidance from, and pray to.

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3) Time heals wounds, although scars generally remain. When grief is fresh, we are more likely to visit the grave site, if there is one, and talk to the departed. As time goes by, we need this less and less, and that’s not only okay, it’s preferable. It’s hard to keep up a conversation with someone who can’t converse back, and the only one from the spiritual world with whom we can do this, is God (see point 2).

Transition Back to the Land of the Living

4) Remember the living. We’ll never stop missing someone we loved very much, and it’s absurd for people to suggest that this is so. At the same time, there are others who knew this person as well — perhaps are hurting as much or more than we are over the loss — and sometimes we can find solace in one another.

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5) When something no longer works, move on. I find myself talking less and less to my father, and more and more about him. While his physical presence is no longer here, his legacy — through his words, his actions, his stories, and his spaghetti sauce — lives on, and I honor his memory by incorporating these into my own life and passing them on.

Hebrews 12: 1 mentions our being surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” of people who no longer walk on the ground we do; Matthew 17: 3 reports Moses and Elijah, appearing on a mountain top, talking with Jesus — so when people die, they still exist, just in a different place. Much more than that, we really don’t know anything.

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Death is a horrible thing, and it wrenches the lives of those left behind. If talking to the person lost helps, let it, and don’t add guilt to the burden of grief.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. I post three times a week, and you can subscribe by clicking on the Subscribe button at the top right of the menu bar.

Posts loosely related to this one are

When You’re Not as Happy as You Wish You Were

Surviving the Holidays

Don’t Be Afraid of What You See

 

  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, aLittleRandR. It’s so easy to have an All or Nothing approach to difficult issues, but that doesn’t make the issues any less difficult, nor does it stop people, as you observe, from talking to people when we know they’re not “here,” but we’re not quite ready to fully let them out of our heart’s sight. Guilt added to pain results in discouragement and angst.

    It’s too easy to lose focus that we serve a very gracious, very loving God who understands us — and loves us!

  • alittlerandr@outlook.com

    This is an excellent post, and I agree 100%. I think talking to someone, in the way that you describe, is no different than carrying on a conversation with ourselves. We know they are not “here” with us and we know they can’t answer us. That is the difference between this exercise and seances. This is a very wise post and I am sure that there are many who have been blessed by the beautiful balance you bring here.

  • http://thiswomanwrites.areavoices.com/ Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, my friend. Death is a sensitive subject, but it’s one that affects all of us. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away, and denying the reality of how many of us cope, doesn’t help either.

    Too many Christians wander around in a haze of guilt, convinced that God is in a constant state of disapproval about them. All of my writings seek to remind us that God loves us, period, and we go on from there. Starting from the opposite camp, that He really doesn’t like us at all, doesn’t take us to a good place.

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for sharing your insight on this important topic! I particularly like the way you have presented your non-compromising view on this topic in an informative way and backed with Scripture references. Blessings!

  • Pingback: Do Christians Have a Message Worth Hearing? | This Woman Writes (formerly Middle Aged Plague) by Carolyn Henderson

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